Calgary’s Inner City has come a long way from its early days as a ramshackle boomtown on the banks of the Bow. Encompassing the majority of the city’s most historic and vibrant neighbourhoods, with several of them currently experiencing impressive revivals, the area is perhaps the very best representation of our city’s impressive past, present and future.
Now home to Centre City – the city’s commercial hub, generating over 40 per cent of our city’s business and nonresidential property tax revenue, and workplace for nearly 160,000 Calgarians – Calgary’s Inner City is reestablishing itself as one of the most sought after areas of the city to call home.
Having served as Alderman for Ward 7 since 2001, Druh Farrell has witnessed the resurgence of Inner City living first hand. Incorporating several Inner City neighbourhoods, much of Farrell’s Ward falls with the Centre City, an area home to several major projects that highlight the appeal of Inner City living.
“In the last 10 years we’ve seen a real renaissance in the Centre City, and it’s partially because we’re investing back in the area,” said Farrell. “More than 50 per cent of the city’s revenue comes from the Centre City and the neighbouring communities, and historically we reinvested very little in our parks in the public realm to make these communities livable. And now we’ve started to reinvest in what makes these communities desirable.”
According to the City of Calgary, the number of residents living in Centre City alone is expected to increase by as much as 50 per cent from its current population of 33,574 over the next decade. The average length of residence in Calgary among Centre City residents has increased from 18 to 21 years, and the proportion who have lived in Calgary for five years and the proportion who have lived in Calgary for five years or less has fallen by eight points from 37 per cent to 29 per cent.
Arguably the most notable project taking place in Calgary’s Inner City is the ongoing revitalization of the East Village. Sitting on 49 acres in the heart of downtown, the area is where Calgary was founded. Since 2007, $150 million in infrastructure improvements have gone into the neighbourhood. Home to just 2,747 residents in 2011, the East Village is expected to eventually be home to more than 11,000 people. Included in the East Village’s revitalization is the construction of RiverWalk – an impressive riverfront promenade that will eventually stretch four kilometers along the Bow and Elbow rivers.
Although smaller in scale, another recent Inner City project that’s being welcomed by Calgarians is the renovation of Central Memorial Park in the city’s Beltline. First opened more than a century ago, the park’s restoration – which includes The Boxwood Cafe, additional seating, public washrooms, lighting and illuminated fountains – came at a cost of $11.5 million. Judging by the number of Calgarians frequenting the park since it reopened in 2010, the money appears to have been well spent.
While technically taking place mostly outside the Inner City, it would be difficult to argue that any recent project will have a bigger impact on the area than the West LRT. Set to open next spring, the eight-kilometer extension will connect downtown Calgary to neighbourhoods along Bow Trail before terminating at 69th Street. With the population of the area included in the expansion forecasted to grow to approximately 120,000in the next 20 years, the $700 million project should provide for a future that includes an even more vital and vibrant Inner City.